New York, August 22, 2003—Earlier this month, Gambian police assaulted Buya Jammeh, a reporter for the English-language biweekly The Independent, near the newspaper’s offices in the capital, Banjul.
According to sources familiar with the incident, on August 9, two police officers stationed a short distance from the newspaper stopped Jammeh on his way to a radio station where he works part-time as a deejay. Alhaji Yorro Jallow, The Independent‘s managing editor, told CPJ that the officers regularly see staff members from The Independent, and could identify Jammeh by sight as a reporter at the newspaper.
The officers asked to search Jammeh’s bag, but refused to give a reason for the search. After Jammeh resisted the officers’ request, they overpowered him, confiscating the journalist’s notebook and several music CDs and cassettes. The officers then beat Jammeh until his face was swollen, according to the journalist’s colleagues, who saw him after the attack.
While the policemen gave no indication of the reasons behind their actions, local journalists told CPJ that Jammeh may have been singled out because of his association with The Independent, which has recently run a series of articles and editorials criticizing the government.
Jallow thinks it is also possible that Jammeh was targeted because of a story he wrote about a government official who was convicted of theft in June. While Jammeh was working on the story, soldiers entered the newspaper’s offices and warned the staff not to report on the conviction, said Jallow. The editor refused, and Jammeh’s story appeared, with his byline, on August 1.